The kisspeptin/neurokinin B/dynorphin (KNDy) cell population of the arcuate nucleus: sex differences and effects of prenatal testosterone in sheep

Endocrinology. 2010 Jan;151(1):301-11. doi: 10.1210/en.2009-0541. Epub 2009 Oct 30.


Recent work in sheep has identified a neuronal subpopulation in the arcuate nucleus that coexpresses kisspeptin, neurokinin B, and dynorphin (referred to here as KNDy cells) and that mediate the negative feedback influence of progesterone on GnRH secretion. We hypothesized that sex differences in progesterone negative feedback are due to sexual dimorphism of KNDy cells and compared neuropeptide and progesterone receptor immunoreactivity in this subpopulation between male and female sheep. In addition, because sex differences in progesterone negative feedback and neurokinin B are due to the influence of testosterone (T) during fetal life, we determined whether prenatal T exposure would mimic sex differences in KNDy cells. Adult rams had nearly half the number of kisspeptin, neurokinin B, dynorphin, and progesterone receptor-positive cells in the arcuate nucleus as did females, but the percentage of KNDy cells colocalizing progesterone receptors remained high in both sexes. Prenatal T treatment also reduced the number of dynorphin, neurokinin B, and progesterone receptor-positive cells in the female arcuate nucleus; however, the number of kisspeptin cells remained high and at levels comparable to control females. Thus, sex differences in kisspeptin in the arcuate nucleus, unlike that of dynorphin and neurokinin B, are not due solely to exposure to prenatal T, suggesting the existence of different critical periods for multiple peptides coexpressed within the same neuron. In addition, the imbalance between inhibitory (dynorphin) and stimulatory (kisspeptin) neuropeptides in this subpopulation provides a potential explanation for the decreased ability of progesterone to inhibit GnRH neurons in prenatal T-treated ewes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Dynorphins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Kisspeptins
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Neurokinin B / metabolism*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oligopeptides / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / blood
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sheep
  • Testosterone / pharmacology*


  • KISS1 protein, human
  • Kisspeptins
  • Oligopeptides
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Testosterone
  • Dynorphins
  • Neurokinin B
  • Luteinizing Hormone